Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak
If you are a NPR listener you may know about the weekly broadcasts of StoryCorps, a non-profit oral history project founded in 2004 and based out of New York, you may even be familiar with its older, more artistic cousin, the Moth. Also a not-for-profit based in New York the Moth has been, according to their website, “dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling” and the performance of the story, told to a live audience, without notes since 1997.
Last Monday night, Feb. 24, starting at 8p.m. at the Aladdin Theater was the first ever GrandSLAM, a Moth competition that puts that storytelling winners from various StorySLAMs, smaller story telling competitions around Portland over the past months, head to head to battle it out.
The Moth is a nation-wide program with speakers all over the country. (Photo: New York Times)
The sold out crowd had already filed into the small, squeaky theater and was talking loudly, sipping beer from plastic couples, unzipping raincoats and tweeting. They waited until 8:05, when the delightful and always inappropriate host, Andrew Dickson, appeared onstage and welcomed them to the show, introducing the night’s story telling theme: Fish Out of Water.
After a personal story, about visiting a girl he met over the summer who turned out to be lesbian at her all girls college – a moment where he felt like a “fish out of water”, was used to butter the crowd up, he instructed the audience to “Go bananas for Mindy!”, the first storyteller of the night.
Mindy, a petite blonde, started the event off with a pleasant but anti-climatic account of a childhood in California after her father had come out of the closet but how she was taught not to be ashamed of herself or her family, a theme shared by many of the nine speakers that followed her.
Over the next two hours the enthusiastic audience would hear from Vin Shambry, who as a homeless child went to outdoor school, Rocky Young, who coached a small middle school girl to long-jump history without a lick of know-how, Darcy Roane, who, while living in Amsterdam had a hard time of making friends, Amber Jo Hatt, who trudged through a stream of dead salmon while taking her friends on a “great NW adventure, Antonia Gonzales, a book fanatic who swallowed his pride and stood inline to get his book signed among 13-year-old-girls, Matt Brown, who overcame his anxieties by taking a job as a clown, Lesley Harper, and her, lying tendencies in childhood, Norina Beck, who told about her adventures with online dating and Arthur Bradford who had to potty train his friends wolf-dog.
The night was full of many laughs and two moving musical performances by Ritchie Young. By the end one had restored faith in humanity because, by listening to their simple five-minute stories, there was a feeling as if connection, even friendship between the audience and storytellers.
On Monday, March 3rd at 8 P.M. there will be a StorySLAM at The Secret Society (ages 21 and up) and on Tuesday, March 18th there will be another StorySLAM at 9 P.M. at Holocene.
If you are interested in hearing more stories or sharing a story, go to the Moth’s website, themoth.org, for more information.